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Yukon’s premier stands strong with chief, mayor as police investigate double homicide in Mayo

RCMP have not made any arrests in the investigation
On March 16, Premier Ranj Pillai speaks to reporters in the cabinet office about the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun’s state of emergency declaration in the days following two shooting deaths in the community of Mayo. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

A double homicide investigation signals the “biggest wakeup call” that Village of Mayo Mayor Trevor Ellis has seen in several years.

“It’s disheartening,” he said.

“I think people are fed up with what’s been going on.”

During an interview on March 16, Ellis described the community as feeling overwhelming anger about the violence and stress that has accompanied the past couple of years.

“A lot of people are scared,” he said.

The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun (FNNND) declared a state of emergency in the days after two Whitehorse men were killed in the community of Mayo. According to Yukon RCMP, Ben Symington, 35, and Michael Bennett, 22, were shot and died on March 11.

The declaration states the First Nation is dealing with “an opioid emergency that is terrorizing the public in Mayo” with violence, crime, overdoses and death.

It contains a proposed action plan that could see more police within FNNND territory, a requirement for non-FNNND citizens (with some exceptions) to register before entering FNNND settlement land and vacate between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., the eviction of tenants in FNNND housing units who are “engaged in illegal activities or supporting such activities or persons involved in opioid distribution” and the establishment of check stops on all roads entering Mayo or C-6 subdivision “to disrupt, interrupt and stop opioid distribution.”

The investigation in Mayo is “ongoing and progressing,” according to a March 16 email from Yukon RCMP communications.

No one has been arrested in relation to the investigation, police said.

Police declined to say if there are any suspects or their suspected location.

The News asked police if the investigation is related to drugs, gangs or organized crime, but RCMP would not comment on the potential avenues of investigation at this time.

Police are continuing to prompt people to come forward with any information about the incident and individuals who may be involved.

The email indicates the Yukon RCMP are “active participants” on the Yukon government’s substance use emergency action plan. The territorial government declared a substance use health emergency across the territory in early 2022.

“Mayo detachment and the Yukon RCMP have had both sustained and recent engagement about policing and community safety in Mayo with both the FNNND and Village of Mayo, among other justice, health and social service partners,” police said.

Yukon RCMP senior management have met with Chief Simon Mervyn and FNNND administration regarding the First Nation’s proposed action plan. In the email, police are “committed to continue working with FNNND, Village of Mayo and the Yukon government to understand and work towards meeting the needs of the community in Mayo through this action plan and any other community safety initiatives.”

While Mayo has three regular RCMP officers, police said it is too early to comment on the role RCMP could hold in carrying out the measures proposed in the resolution and any resources or funding for operational activity.

“However, the Yukon RCMP ensures that all of our activities, including enforcement, are carried out in a manner that meets legislative requirements, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in a lawful manner that supports overall public safety for all Yukoners,” reads the email.

On March 16, Premier Ranj Pillai told reporters in the cabinet office the Yukon government has been working in alignment with Mervyn and FNNND.

“I support them in those strong steps,” he said.

“The community really is taking a leadership role. I want to be in a position to support them.”

He noted the Yukon government’s recently released budget boosts RCMP funding by $3.5 million.

“Yukoners know now why we are making those investments. It’s about making sure that Yukoners are safe. It’s about making sure that we take the right actions to root out individuals that are really damaging and impacting the life of so many individuals,” he said.

“I’m going to be standing there with the chief and the mayor. I believe that we have to take an extremely strong stance on what’s happening.”

The News reached out to Mervyn, but did not get a response by press time.

Ellis said there is a long road ahead.

“I’m feeling very encouraged and very positive that we can tackle this and make Mayo a better place,” he said.

“Mayo is going to come back from this.”

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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